Thursday, June 10, 2004

It Took Two To Tango

Fred Kaplan has put together a brief, but eloquent, opinion piece that discusses, in a non-partisan way, the role that Ronald Reagan played in bringing about an end to the Cold War. The focus of the piece revolves around three major factors: Reagan's hawkish arm's race activities, Reagan's moves to detente and reconciliation with Soviet leadership, and last, and perhaps most importantly, the emergence of reform minded maverick Mikhail Gorbachev.

In discussing Gorbachev's importance to the equation, Kaplan states, "If Yuri Andropov's kidneys hadn't given out, or if Konstantin Chernenko had lived a few years longer, Reagan's bluster and passion would have come to naught; the Cold War would probably have raged on for years; indeed, Reagan's rhetoric and actions might have aggravated tensions."

In summing up the tension and contrast of the various ingredients that helped cure the Cold War, Kaplan opines:

"So, did Ronald Reagan bring on the end of the Cold War? Well, yes. Recently declassified documents leave no doubt about the matter. But how did he accomplish it? Through hostile rhetoric and a massive arms buildup, which the Soviets knew they couldn't match, as Reagan's conservative champions contend? Or through a second-term conversion to detente and disarmament, as some liberal historians, including Slate's David Greenberg, argue?

This is an uncomfortable position for an opinion columnist (and occasional Cold War historian) to take, but it turns out that both views have their merits; neither position by itself gets at the truth. Reagan the well-known superhawk and Reagan the lesser-known nuclear abolitionist are both responsible for the end of that era—along with his vital collaborator Mikhail Gorbachev."

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